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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
Independent Baptists have been accused, by friend and foe alike, of being an old "fuddy-dud," stick-in-the-mud type of mentality. Some call us Baptist bigots because we believe in the Baptist Bride. Others claim we are a part of a dying breed of dinosaur churches that is frozen in time in a world of fast pace and change. I thank the Lord for men of God and the Lord’s churches which have stood the test of time, refusing to depart from the faith and compromise their doctrine.
According to the Bible, there are three things that will always endure and never change: God, His Word, and His true churches. It has been said that as Independent Baptists, we are afraid to change a program or try a new method because we have always done things a certain way.
The truth is, if our old programs and methods of yesterday do not work today, then the new programs and methods of today will not work tomorrow. If that is the case, then it becomes painfully obvious we are using the wrong program or method. But God, in His Word, has adequately provided for us every program or method we need to do His work.
There is no room for improvement or change in God’s programs and methods. It is often argued that we should be willing to make changes as the needs of the people change. Scripturally speaking, man’s need has always been the same since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden: Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
The Cry For Change
The spirit and attitude of being changeable is all too common in the thinking of most people today. When one has the tendency of not being changeable, he is vilified as being too rigid, too narrow-minded, not flexile enough, too dogmatic, hard-headed, and stuck in the dinosaur age. There is nothing wrong with change. I believe in making changes when needed and called for in the Scriptures. But when it comes to making changes in regards to the doctrines, beliefs, convictions, and standards of Independent Baptists, we ought not move one inch. Why should we be flexible and open-minded to certain issues and doctrines when the Scriptures teach us to be otherwise?
Consider the following quote from a Baptist preacher of years gone by: "‘Give us the new’, true or untrue, is the cry of our country. The landmarks of twenty centuries are the laughing stock of many of our generation. In the social, political, and religious world, there seems a determined desire to break away from the old moorings, and without chart or compass, to drift on unknown seas. To what extremity this tendency of our times may yet lead us, it is difficult to determine. At all events, the time is at hand when we should sound a note of alarm, and diligently seek the old paths." (J. W. Porter)
If we, as independent Baptists, do not see the importance and the need of remaining steadfast and unmovable, of digging in and holding our ground, then it won’t be long before our present existing churches will become a conglomeration of people believing in everything in general and standing for nothing in particular and principle. There are Baptist churches that have headed down that road and today they are no longer in existence, or they have taken the name "Baptist" off their church sign, or they have the word "Ichabod" written by God over their door.
The Bible teaches us that God does not change (James 1:17), His Word does not change (Ps. 12:7; 119:89), and His true churches do not change (Mt. 16:18; I Tim. 3:15). The question we must face and honestly answer is, should we change? If so, when, how, and to what extent?
Stand On the Word
In the apostle Paul’s letters, he faithfully warned churches and Christians of a very real present danger of rebellion against the truth. In I Tim. 4:1 the warning Paul gave was that, what he called the latter times, some would depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. In II Tim. 3 Paul told about those who were "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (v.7).
In II Peter 2 the apostle Peter talks about false prophets and teachers among God’s people bringing in their damnable heresies, resulting with many following their pernicious ways, "by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (v.2). Even the apostle John warned God’s people that many false prophets have gone out into the world (I Jn. 4:1). God works through the truth and we know that His Word is truth (Jn. 17:17). But Satan opposes the truth by substituting it with his lies; he is a liar and the father of it (Jn. 8:44).
Paul reminded the church at Thessalonica that they had heard the truth, and they believed the truth to the saving of their souls (see I Thess. 2:13; II Thess. 2:13-14). Having been exposed to the truth, having believed the truth, in II Thess. 2:15 Paul clearly states the believer's responsibility of guarding the truth. In that verse Paul uses certain words and phrases to describe their dual responsibility.
The first phrase is: "stand fast"–persevere, be stationary, stand firm (I Cor. 16:13; Phil. 1:27; 4:1). Paul’s warning is for us not to be moved away from the truth of the gospel and the doctrines of the Word of God: "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;"(Colossians 1:23). Oftentimes people change or are moved away by the wiles of Satan or by the fickleness of men’s thinking but Paul says: stay put, don’t change, stand fast.
The second word is: "hold"–retain possession of, don't let go of it, keep it carefully and faithfully. This word is related to a Greek word that means to use strength, might, or power to retain or keep. We are not to hold or treat God’s truth in a careless way but grasp it firmly with power and never let it slip form us: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip."(Hebrews 2:1).
When Paul used the word "tradition" in II Thess. 2:15 he was not referring to man-made religious traditions that he warned against in Col. 2:8 and that the Lord Jesus Himself vehemently condemned in Mark 7. The word referred to that body of truth that is passed on from one person to another; it is composed of God’s instructions, precepts, and commandments that were transmitted in unbroken succession to one generation from another.
This word was in reference to God’s truth that was to be strictly obeyed with reverence and godly fear. Each generation of Christians must receive the truth from others,guard it, hold fast, hold firmly to it, and make sure it is kept intact for the next generation. Paul had this same idea in mind when he said in II Tim. 2:2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
Study The Word
In II Tim. 2:15 the apostle Paul very pointedly stressed to the young preacher Timothy to be a student of the Word. When this verse is studied in its context it is interesting to note why Paul was so persistent in making his point understood. The following verses explains what had happened: "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." Paul declares that these two men "erred" concerning the truth of the resurrection, meaning to "miss the mark, deviate from, swerve." Earlier Timothy had been warned of this very thing happening: "From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." (1 Timothy 1:6-7)
It was bad enough that Hymenaeus and Philetus erred concerning the truth but Paul also stated "and overthrow (overturn, subvert) the faith of some." The tragedy is that there were some, in all probability, who knew better that had been taught the truth concerning the resurrection. Yet they must have developed an attitude of open-mindedness, persuaded to listen with an objective viewpoint, and convinced to change their doctrine, belief, and stand on the issue.
Shield The Word
In I Tim. 6:20-21, Paul emphasizes Timothy’s need of preserving, protecting, defending, and keeping with the truth of God’s Word: "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen."
Again in II Tim. 1:13-14 Paul instructed young Timothy to "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." There is not even the slightest hint in these passages that Timothy was to compromise or change in regards to the Word of God. He was to stick with the truth. Our Lord Jesus made the statement: "...blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." (Luke 11:28)
God’s Warning and Instruction
What are we to do if preachers and churches around us are constantly in a state of changing their doctrine, practices, and confession of faith?
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Ephesians 4:14). Phil. 2:16 tells us to be "holding forth the word of life," meaning to retain, hold upon, stay with it. Col. 1:23 says, "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel..." Col. 2:7 says, "Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught..."
To be grounded, settled, rooted, and stablished all refers to that which is steadfast, stable, immovable, sure, and abiding. This is quite the opposite of being changeable, open-minded, or flexible. Study carefully the following passages: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16). "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;" (2 Timothy 3:14). "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1:9).
We Need Sound Doctrine Not Strange Doctrine
The day is here when people will not endure sound doctrine. Many are turning their ears away from the truth. They are not enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. It is needful again, as it was in the days of Jude, to remind God’s people, particularly Independent Baptists, that we must earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
We must heed the following: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Peter 3:17). "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;" (Hebrews 13:8-9).
After a careful examination of all these Scripture references, I believe it to be wrong to be changeable when it comes to the doctrines of the Word of God and the standard by which it prescribes for us to live by. To take such a position one will be criticized for being narrow-minded and hard-headed, living in the day and age of the dinosaurs.
But by God’s strength and grace, we as Independent Baptists, can remain faithful and true, unchangeable and immovable, steadfast and firm as we have been taught, instructed, and grounded in the truth of God’s holy Word. We must, at all cost, "hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering" (Heb. 10:23).